• Ben Roush

Lean Line Layouts: Kaizen 3P Advanced


Takt time-based line design to specifically match up to the customer demand rate is the most important concept to remember in designing a new model line layout. It is your best opportunity for your company to right size the capital equipment, the necessary labor, and effective manufacturing space. In addition, you will be establishing the best level of occurrence, detection, and correction in your inventory levels. Think about the cost of poor quality happening daily. The bigger the sort, the bigger the costs.


The amount of “over production” influence throughout the line design is significant. Everyone in your company wants “more” and yet when it hits the shop floor – most of them are nowhere to be seen. The sales team tells you that they may run another model off this line. The Program Management team tells you that the volumes are going to be significantly greater than the BIW line speed projections from the assembly plant. The customer wants plus 15% for peak volumes. Your line integrator and designer want to put in another 5-10% to cover their contractual obligations. The list can go on and on.


Remember, when you design your line to a customer demand pace you no longer have a choice to do the right things. These are must haves, such as cross training your team members, establishing and improving your predictive and preventative maintenance, and making sure each step in the process is robust, capable, and in control, are the beauty of Takt time paced lines. By missing any of the above, you often end up living with a bad process and also running it 24 X 7!


If you are able to save a good amount of capital expense during this event, then invest some money back into your Critical PLP points. Or any other manufacturing process that you have historically struggled with on customer related concerns.


Do not make the mistake of being shortsighted and locating the line in your plant up against an area or wall where you have the utility lines already in place. You do not want to invest extra time and money putting the line right where it should be. Start by looking at your shipping location and work backwards.



Line Design centered around flexible labor



We should always focus on building a line design that can run with 1 operator, or 6 operators. Think about breaks and lunch time. Can I run the line with fewer people during these unscheduled periods? Some flow production is always better than none.




3P Principles Applied


  1. Team Goals and Objectives: Your senior management needs to kick off the team with a significant challenge on cost for the new model process. Typically, a 50% reduction in capital, tooling and labor is a good place to start. You cannot do this successfully without direction from the top on being competitive.

  2. Re-use of Capital equipment: Who on the 3P team has a list of available capital that can be reused? Robots, transfer units, fixtures, light screens, clamps, tooling, welders, etc. If you owned the business yourself would you not do this? The old game of making the customer pay for customer funded tooling is great, but why not do both?

  3. Takt time defined. Use the real formula please. Do not get prosecuted by all the wasteful inputs in your organization. You do not tell them how to do their job, so they should be giving you the same professional courtesy. TT= Available time / customer demand. Period. Nothing else.

  4. Machine Cycle times: Do this event at the plant and go out and look at the current running process if you can. How much time for a spot weld? If you are quoting 3.5 seconds per weld and you are doing it in 2 seconds, why wouldn’t you challenge the team to design the line with 2 seconds as the standard?

  5. Operator stations: Get out of the 90-degree disease from a design standpoint. If you are going to have one operator run more than one station, can you use one light screen? You do not always have to box in, and out, your control panel. Machines can be designed narrow and deep to help reduce operator walk time and tighten up the cell to make it easier to balance labor to demand.

  6. Run buttons: Put some money into the newer styles that give the operator a concrete signal that they are finished and can move on to the next sequence in their standard work. Make sure the operator doesn’t need to tab the button several times before the cycle starts, one touch and away we go.

  7. Operator Cycle times: We want to load them up to 100% of Value added. Do not send a coward to be my industrial engineer. I can feel the bamboo stick on the back of my legs from Mr. Nakao.

  8. Hanedashi: Why do we design lines with the operators beginning their cycle by removing a finished part? Can we not find a creative way to accomplish this ahead of time? How about a lifter or kicker? Can I go top down with a suction cup? Remember the 2-3 seconds we save the operator is a huge gain for their standardized work. Implementing this concept into line design is a great opportunity to ensure the operator’s rhythm and routine. By the way – where exactly are they supposed to put that part when they take it out of the fixture?

  9. Supporting quick change over by design: Maybe it is just a creative placeholder at this point, but what can you do to support a quick changeover in this line? Obviously flow racks and totes allow us to support the material handling side of the changeover, but what about inside the gates?




3P Tools to support creativity


Often, we get caught up in the “cost savings” side of the 3P event and we do not stay true to the principles of creativity before capital. You need to take at least one day with the team and break down the product and process from scratch in everyone’s head.


  1. Big team: Why not bring in 3 suppliers or integrators to participate with you to get some free processing ideas? Some people are uncomfortable doing this, but I have done it in major automotive 3P applications, and it worked out famously. When the team agrees on and confirms the new concept by the end of the week, then you have a scope of work you can send out to the participating suppliers to quote on. Why not? Have them sign an NDA before you start if you need to.

  2. Functional Sketch of the Product in a disassembly drawing. Think about doing a fishbone drawing of the product to make sure the team understands how this thing gets put together. Facilitate questions from everyone in this exercise. Let us all get on board with the steps necessary in building this product. This is a “product” activity.

  3. Process at a Glance: We do not have to carbon copy the current manufacturing processes every time. What are the other alternatives to move a part? Do we move the part through the process and add value in fixed positions? Use the sheet to have your process guys come up with alternative methods on putting this production together. We can evaluate the processes later, but start by focusing on as many alternative methods as possible. Do not retrofit current ideas. Come up with new ones. Get the old timers involved in this part of the exercise. They have seen it all and we want to rely on their experience. If you have a good team make up, then you should have a couple hundred years of experience in the room. Transfer, fixturing, welding, adhesive, etc. We need to list this creativity out on the sheet and get them to draw some different concepts for review by the team later in the day.

  4. Simulation: What better way to confirm our new cycle times and manufacturing methods than with actual shop floor simulations? We will need some space, some cardboard, some tape, and some proto-types or current product. We can have some packaging reviews at this time too!



I often think about all the time we waste in reviews and meetings with our engineering team members, and how powerful this tool can really be for competitive manufacturing companies. All the time spent in Teams, Zoom, and WebEx meetings could be significantly reduced by getting everybody together in this very important process. Why not do this before you quote in advance to ensure you win their business, instead of after the fact?



Has your team ever done a 3P process from Scratch using all these tools?

Do you have the 3P event embedded into your APQP process?


How high up in your organization is the Takt time calculation on new models?


Do you really do a 3p or just have formal cost reviews?


We at Dynamic Improvement Group would like to help you move forward in using this competitive tool. Send us a direct message if you would like our support.


23 views0 comments